More changes are on the horizon for the Bulls, still smarting after a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves that feels like more than just one on the ledger.
It doesn’t seem like Fred Hoiberg can do much more aside from playing his last two first-round picks, Denzel Valentine and Bobby Portis, who both went with the dreaded “DNP-Coach’s Decision” on the scoring sheet Tuesday night as the Bulls coughed up a 21-point lead — the biggest giveaway in the NBA this season.
Valentine looks like he’ll get more of a look, perhaps in place of the struggling Isaiah Canaan, who didn’t play Saturday against Miami and hasn't been much of an offensive factor when he has played in the last week or so, as he’s shooting 13 percent from 3-point range this month.
Valentine played 22 minutes against Portland after playing 25 in the blowout loss to Dallas earlier this month, but hasn’t seen much time since. Even though Rajon Rondo (ankle) is expected to be back, it appears Valentine will get a bit of an extended look.
“We'll continue to work at things as we move forward as far as possibly changing some things up with guys coming off the bench,” Hoiberg said. “We've tried to change our substitution patterns to where we have at least one, more often than not two, starters out there on the floor at all times.”
Second-round pick Paul Zipser, a player who’s seen more time in the D-League than on the floor, will get a look as well. It doesn’t feel quite like desperation but one has to wonder if Hoiberg’s patience with some of his young players is starting to run thin.
“Paul Zipser will get an opportunity at some point from what he has shown,” Hoiberg said. “Even that game he played for Windy City, he showed a lot of promise and has a bright future. We’ll continue to keep those guys ready and hopefully they’ll help us win some games and produce.”
[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]
Valentine hasn’t found his groove since returning from an ankle injury he suffered in the first preseason game, which cost him a lot of time. Also, he seems to struggle finding his way without being a playmaker, which was his specialty at Michigan State.
Here, he would have more value as a shot maker than creator considering he plays more with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade. Either there’s not much trust in him running the show or they simply don’t need him to at this point.
“Denzel will see more time as we move forward. There’s no doubt about that,” Hoiberg said. “A lot of it has been based on what he’s doing out here, the amount of time and effort and work he’s putting into it. There will be a time again when Bobby gets that opportunity.”
What the Bulls need is some form of perimeter shooting and even more pressing is the need to be settled when other teams make runs, such as the Timberwolves coming back from a 19-point deficit in the last four minutes of the first half to cut it to a manageable four-point game at the half.
“The biggest thing that I looked at as I watched it a couple times and laid awake thinking about it was just the lead we gave up,” Hoiberg said. “A 21-point lead in your home building, you have to find a way to win those games. That was the focus for me.”
Calling the collapse “inexcusable”, Hoiberg noticed a few other basic tenets being abandoned in the afternoon film session before his team’s back-to-back set against the young and athletic Milwaukee Bucks Thursday and Friday: Terrible transition defense and inconsistent rebounding.
Robin Lopez said the Bulls have shown the foundation of being a good defensive team that rebounds well, but it slipped for a night.
“I think we're a very strong defensive team, honestly,” Lopez said. “We've been successful, we've been very good at that. We've rebounded well, we've defended well, especially in transition we've guarded pretty well. When we give up offensive rebounds, when we let teams get easy buckets off the glass, we're not quite as good.”
And when those things sprout up, it puts Hoiberg in the unenviable position of more shuffling, even though nobody appears ready to step forward with each opportunity.